Random Acts of Integrity: An Easy Way to Keep Students Accountable for Self-Checking

by David Miller

If your school uses self-paced instruction, self-checking can help students and teachers. Students can identify and correct their own errors and the teacher saves time. But how do you help students maintain integrity?

David explains a simple method he uses to support students’ efforts at maintaining integrity. Whether you choose to use a smartphone like David does, or adapt a lower-tech approach, consider a random approach to integrity.

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Self-checking: I think it’s a great opportunity for them to learn at a young age. Sometimes I wonder if we put a little too much temptation on too young students, and then maybe expect them to have a higher level of integrity than what they have matured to. That has always been a problem. Probably most students at some point get caught with cheating in their score and they don’t do it properly.

It used to be, back when I started teaching, that I would spot check every book that was handed in for a test, and that just got to be cumbersome. It’s a lot of work the teacher shouldn’t have to be doing.

Lately what I’ve been doing, and it seems to be working better than anything that I’ve ever tried before, is I have a randomizer app on my phone. I’ve got all the students’ names in it in a list. Usually after lunch or after last break or something, on days that I remember, I just pull it out. I take the third name that comes up and that student is the checker. Then I take the next two third names that come up and those are the ones that get checked. Then I’ve got a list of the subjects and I randomly pick a subject, and those two students bring that subject and the checker gets the answer key and checks the last lesson that they did in it.

If it’s perfect, then I give them a little award. If it’s got problems, they erase it and do it again. If it’s got real problems, then the penalties get bigger. If it’s bad enough, they erase the entire Light Unit and start over. If you happen to be on Lesson 14 or something, you have to redo two or three weeks worth of work in that subject. It’s pretty good motivation.

Again, I would like to see them do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen if they don’t. But that has really helped. No one knows when they’re going to get called and no one knows which subject is going to get checked. It seems to really keep them on top of it.

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CONTRIBUTOR: David Miller

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  • I fully agree on the temptation students can have to compromise their integrity. It requires a lot of instruction and guidance at every age of a student to help them appreciate the importance of proper checking as a way to assure they are learning what is needed. It is however the responsibility of the teacher to insure the integrity of the student and their work. Are you not transferring the responsibility for integrity from one student to another? Students are very slow to report faults in one another to the teacher. When a student knows the reward or punishment to another student that will follow their evaluation I feel it puts undo pressure on that student.

    I believe we should find the best way to manage our time and energy in the classroom, but this isn’t a method I would feel comfortable with.

    • This method doesn’t seem to be as personal as a long term relationship of checking each other’s work. It is just a random check by a random student. While it is true that some students wouldn’t report, it is also possible that you will get checked by that student who will report everything. It would seem to me that it is easier for most students to just follow the rules and do it right like they know they ought to.

      Possibly the randomizer app could just be used for spot checks that the teacher does. This would have similar benefits but take away the student to student relationship problems.